Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Seven Sisters..................the Sixth Sister.

The Sixth Sister - Assam

*     The Sixth Sister is the eldest and biggest. In her lap, other younger sisters have grown. Despite being the eldest, she has retained her charm and beauty.

*   The precise etymology of "Assam" is unknown. In the classical period and up to the 12th century, present-day Assam, was called Kamarupa. In medieval times the Mughals used Kamrup. Many authors have associated the name with the 13th century Shan invaders. It was suggested by some that the Sanskrit word Asama ("unequalled", "peerless", etc.) was the root, which has been rejected by recent authors who have concurred that it is a latter-day Sanskritization of a native name.

*  Located south of the eastern Himalayas, Assam comprises the Brahmaputra and the Barak river valleys along with the Karbi Anglong and the North Cachar Hills. Assam is surrounded by six of the other Seven Sister States.Geographically Assam and these states are connected to the rest of India via a narrow strip of land in West Bengal called the Siliguri Corridor or "Chicken's Neck".

*     Assam is rich in culture, ethnic groups, languages/dialacts spoken and literature. Assam has successfully conserved the one-horned Indian rhinoceros from near extinction, along with the tiger and numerous species of birds, and it provides one of the last wild habitats for the Asian elephant. Kaziranga and Manas are both World Heritage Sites. 

*     The state is famous for its tea gardens and lone river island, Majuli.

*     And remember!  journey to this land is only for the braves.............

Tuesday, 21 January 2014


Anubhav lived in the plains in the midst of heat, dust and humidity of Agra. It was a city, which experienced extreme weather conditions. During summers the temperature almost touched 50 degree Celsius, while the winters often got freezing cold. The other two seasons, the rainy and the autumn, came and went unnoticed. Citizens of the Taj city got a brief respite during the month of November. When he was a child he had been to the hills of Kumaon and Himachal on a few occasions with his parents. The virgin beauty of the hills had captivated and left an indelible mark on his impressionable young mind that he often wished to run away into the lap of the mountains and spend his life there. But Alas! That couldn’t happen. He was tied down to a very demanding business.
(for complete story go to short stories section)

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Lesser Known Indian Saints......................Astavakra


     *     Astavakra, an Indian sage, was born with eight different deformities of the body (two feet, two knees, two hands, the chest and the head).

·     ·   The sage Uddalaka, the seer ran a school teaching the Vedas. Kahola was one of his best disciples. Uddalaka was so pleased with him that he had his daughter Sujata married to him. When Sujātā got pregnant, she had the desire of wanting her child to imbibe spirituality and intelligence. She began to sit in the classes taught by Uddalaka and Kahola, listening to their chanting of the Vedic Mantras. In India, there is a belief that when expectant mothers expose themselves to spiritual teachings, the child in the womb hears it and gathers that knowledge and become a genius in that spiritual area after its birth.

      ·       Around that time Aṣṭāvakra was born. Kahola was persuaded by Sujātā to go to the court of Janaka to earn some money. In Janaka's court best philosophers were invited to argue in the presence of the King. Vandin easily defeated Kahola. Aṣṭāvakra was now raised by Uddalaka. Sujata and the disciples ensured that Aṣṭāvakra was never informed of his real father, Aṣṭāvakra thought that Uddalaka was his father and Shvetaketu his brother. He decided to confront Vandin and defeat him in an argument.
     *   Aṣṭāvakra and Śvetaketu made their way to Janaka's palace. Aṣṭāvakra first faced the gatekeeper who tried to keep the young boy out. On convincing the gatekeeper that he was well versed in the scriptures, he was let in. Then Janaka tested Aṣṭāvakra with cryptic questions which Aṣṭāvakra answered with ease. Janaka decided to let Aṣṭāvakra face Vandin. Vandin and Aṣṭāvakra began the debate, with Vandin starting. They alternately composed six extempore verses on the numbers one to twelve. Then Vandin could only compose the first half of a verse on the number thirteen. Aṣṭāvakra completed the verse by composing the second half and thus won the argument against Vandin.

      *   This unique debate is full of enigmas and latent meanings which lie under the simple counts of the numbers one to thirteen.  The condition of the contest was that if Vandin were to lose he would grant any wish of his vanquisher. Aṣṭāvakra demanded that Vandin be drowned in water just as he forced his vanquished opponents to do. Vandin then revealed that he was the son of Varuṇa (the Lord of all water bodies), and brought all Brahmaṇas to surface. Aṣṭāvakra was praised by all the freed sages. Kahola was extremely pleased with his son. Kahola returned to his aśrama with Aṣṭāvakra and Śvetaketu. In the presence of Sujātā, Kahola asked Aṣṭāvakra to bathe in the river Samanga. When Aṣṭāvakra entered the river, all his crooked limbs became straight.
     *   Later Aṣṭāvakra grew into a spiritually advanced sage. He went again to Mithila and taught King Janaka about the Self. These teachings form the content of the Aṣṭāvakra Saṃhitā. 

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Vangchhia....Mizoram, India

*    This village of over 800 simple folks, located about 250 km from Aizawl, in Mizoram is not like any other village in the state.

*   The legend has it that Chunthang married the Biete princess, Lalzaii. Their offspring died at infancy. One night, he had a dream that next child should be born in another village for it to survive. So, when the time for delivery came, the mother was taken to another village where she delivered a healthy boy. As the boy was born in another village, he was named 'Khualhring'. The boy later on became the progenitor of the Khawlhring clan. When time for the second delivery came, Chunthang was told to keep the child under the 'vang' tree near their house to ensure his survival. And so survived the second child, who was named Vangchhia. Later, his descendants came to be known by that name.

*   The village is a treasure house of 171 Menhir stones that fascinate and baffle visitors. How and when were these constructed, remains to be explored. Having lived in the state for six years, I missed them by some miles on a few occasions as I wasn't aware of them. Hope to see them during my next visit to Mizoram. 

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